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A Business Law Firm with a Family Atmosphere

 Scott Link, Wendy Sartory Link and David Ackerman

With a husband, wife and their best friend as founding partners, Ackerman Link & Sartory is a business law firm with a unique family atmosphere. “We’ve worked together since May 1996, and never had one cross word among us,” says Wendy Sartory Link, managing partner of the West Palm Beach firm. While she and her husband Scott Link and their friend David Ackerman share ideas and strategies for cases, the three partners have different types of business practices. “We talk all the time and have faith in each other,” she adds. “That allows us to focus on our cases as opposed to having to politic with other partners.”

All three founders were working at Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart (now Gunster) in the 1990s, where Ackerman co-chaired the securities litigation group with Link and served as his mentor. A native of West Palm Beach, where her father was president of the Palm Beach Post, Wendy Sartory moved back to the area in 1994 to handle large real estate transactions. “It was love at first sight,” recalls Scott Link. They married in 1995 and now have three children.

At that time, Gunster had a prohibition about having married couples in the firm, and the Links had to apply for a waiver to continue practicing together. A year later, the Links left Gunster with Ackerman and founded their firm. “We knew Wendy had the best management skills, so she’s been the managing partner ever since,” says Scott Link. Today, their eight-attorney firm handles business litigation and transactions for regional, national and international clients.

“One of the three of us will be the lead attorney in every matter, which is important to sophisticated clients,” says Scott Link. “We are selective in the work we take in and believe in the traditional Golden Rule; we give our clients the top quality legal service we would want and we treat them the same way we would want to be treated. In that way, we become trusted advisors and counselors.”

Varying Practice Areas

Two of the name partners at Ackerman Link & Sartory primarily handle business litigation, as well as legal malpractice cases. “I enjoy handling complex matters from the defense side,” says Ackerman, who is board-certified in business litigation. “My current workload includes a securities case involving hedge funds, and a commercial foreclosure connected to a guarantee in a securitized loan portfolio.”

A member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Ackerman received the 2006 Professionalism Award from the Palm Beach County Bar Association, was named the 2012 Lawyer of the Year for Commercial Litigation in South Florida by Best Lawyers in America, and is an active supporter of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County and the Salvation Army.

Scott Link also handles legal malpractice, securities cases and commercial litigation. “In the last few years, legal malpractice cases have grown to be about 30 percent of our practice,” says Link, who is board certified in commercial litigation. “We have the privilege to represent many of the top statewide firms, as well as national and international firms. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of our practice and also the most stressful because I always take these cases personally.” Currently, Link is handling cases in Texas, New York and Alabama, as well as Florida.

Link brings a unique understanding and global perspective to his practice areas as he has represented both plaintiffs and corporate defendants. He started 25 years ago on the corporate defense side but for the past 15 years, he has also been active in securities and business litigation on the plaintiff’s side. Today, he has a national practice representing individual and corporate investors in claims against their advisors, brokerage firms, money managers and financial institutions. He is a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, was named a Bet-the-Company Litigator by Best Lawyers in America, has served on the National Arbitration and Mediation Committee of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), and was recently designated a Public Member of the Securities Industry Conference on Arbitration (SICA).
In handling securities actions, Link notes that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration process is designed for smaller cases, primarily individuals who were cheated by others. “My clients may have lost $20 million to $750 million, so they don’t look as needy to the panel of arbitrators,” he says. “Our biggest challenge is getting the panel to understand that a wrong is a wrong — regardless of the amount that’s involved in the case.”

While her two partners handle litigation, Wendy Sartory Link focuses her practice on business transactions, including real estate. Named one of the “50 Most Influential Women in Palm Beach and Broward Counties” by Fast Track magazine, Link is active in numerous civic and community organizations, including Florida Colleges Trustee Commission, the District Board of Trustees for Palm Beach State College, Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, Economic Council of Palm Beach County, and the WPBT Channel 2 Public Television Board. She received the “Heart of Gold” award from the Salvation Army of Palm Beach County for her pro bono work on the development of its community centers.

During the boom years of the early 2000s, Link worked with commercial developers and financial institutions handling shopping centers and other retail projects. “I was an outside general counsel to many of our smaller clients,” she says. “As the real estate transactions slowed down along with the downturn in the economy, the litigation side of the practice continued to thrive.” With her experience in legal documentation and financial structures, Link has been an important member of the litigation team in malpractice cases. “Since these actions are based on what an attorney did that was right or wrong, I can go back to the original documents,” she says. “I can also advise on whether or not the problems a developer or financial institution faced were related to changes in the real estate market.”

As the region’s economy improves, though, Link has seen a pickup in her real estate transactional practice. “We’re already handling more transactions than we did last year,” she says. “I see no reason why that won’t continue in 2013.”

Looking Ahead

With their thriving business practices, the three partners plan to keep Ackerman Link & Sartory moving ahead on its current path. “We don’t stray from what we know,” says Wendy Link. “We’ve had opportunities to merge with other firms or have groups of attorneys join us, but we have made a strategic decision to stay at our current size. That allows the three of us to oversee every matter and provide the highest level of service to our clients.”

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